The problem of atomisation: from 'bowling alone' to lockdowns
Bristow, J. 2022. The problem of atomisation: from 'bowling alone' to lockdowns.
Concerns about the demise of civil society go back a long way. Almost as soon as De Tocqueville had praised the many voluntary and civic associations of the newly independent United States of America was he forecasting and fretting over their inevitable decline. Throughout the 20th Century, similar concerns could be heard from authors from almost every ideological persuasion. A key theme has been the rise of ‘individualism’ and a supposedly atomised society of isolated individuals. At the turn of the millennium, Robert Putnam noted that civic participation was falling across all areas of American life, arguing that ‘social capital’ was lost when traditional civic associations atrophied. Many insist that the State must act to repair these damaged social bonds. Yet critics note that State activity seems only to degrade civil society further. Given the contradictory legacy of Covid lockdowns – which drew on civic spirit and collective sacrifice yet served to isolate many millions – do we need to ask what civil society is, and what it could be? How do we challenge atomisation and isolation? Should we be sceptical of those in power who want to mend ‘broken’ societies?
|Covid; Generations; Atomisation; Mannheim; Knowledge
|Ideas Matter 2022: The Old Roots of the New Normal
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|Publication process dates
|05 Jul 2023
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